THE THEOLOGY OF THE SO-CALLED PLYMOUTH BRETHREN EXAMINED AND REFUTED. BY
II. CHRIST'S MILLENNIAL COMING.
We are now prepared to examine the Scriptures which speak of that coming of Christ which belongs to the triumphant period of His Kingdom. Surprisingly few are they, considering the extraordinary claims of premillennialists.
Our argument rests only upon those which are acknowledged by both parties as millennial passages.
Agreed are both parties that Ps. lxxii. speaks of Christ's coming and the triumphant epoch of His Kingdom, when "the mountains "--governments--"shall bring peace to the people," when He "shall break in pieces the oppressor," and when "all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him." In verse 6 it does say "He shall come," and in verse 8, "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River unto the ends of the earth."
What more could heart wish to prove beyond question the premillennial coming of Christ? Nothing but another glance at the rest of the text: --
"He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass;
As showers that water the earth."
Whether one and the same thing, or different things, are here spoken of, this is certain: Rain is never the symbol of the bodily coming of Christ. In Scripture, rain, water, showers are usually symbols of blessing:--
" And He shall come unto us as the rain,
As the latter rain that watereth the earth." (Hos. vi. 3.)
"... It is time to seek the Lord, Till He come and rain righteousness upon you." (Hos. x. 12.)
". .. I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, And streams upon the dry ground:,"
this being immediately explained as meaning:--
"I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, And my blessing upon thine offspring:
And they shall spring up among the grass, As willows by the watercourses." (Is. xliv. 3-4.)
"There shall be showers of blessing." (Ezek. xxxiv. 26.) "I will be as the dew unto Israel. He shall blossom as the lily." (Hos. xiv. 5.)
These are millennial promises, and, if the text of Ps. lxxii. 6 speaks of one fact only, then the coming of Christ there mentioned is plainly His coming by the Holy Spirit, as predicted by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Christ. This settles the question, and shows that Christ's millennial coming is by the Holy Spirit, and is not a visible bodily coming, for no sane man would use the term "like rain" to denote a bodily coming.
But more than "blessing" is indicated by the terms of the text. "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass" is not a natural symbol of "showers of blessing." Rain upon the mown grass means damage--destruction. Mowing is not a symbol of blessing, but of calamity. Vitringa and others aver that: "The metaphor of mowing or reaping is used in most authors to signify an excision or utter destruction of the subject."
So in Scripture rain is a symbol of evil.
"Upon the wicked He shall rain snares." (Ps. xi. 6.)
"And I will call for a sword against him . . . And I will plead against him with pestilence and blood;
And I will rain upon him, and upon his hordes: And upon the many peoples that are with him,
An overflowing shower, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone. And I will magnify myself, and sanctify myself,
And I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations, And they shall know that I am the Lord." (Ezek. xxxviii. 21-23.)
Similarly Christ: "The rain descended, and the floods came...and smote upon that house; and it fell." (Matt. vii. 27.)
So in this millennial psalm, "He comes" not only in "showers of blessing," but--"He shall break in pieces the oppressor." (v. 5.)
"And his enemies shall lick the dust." (v. 9.)
Most plainly there is not the slightest intimation of the bodily coming of Christ in this confessedly millennial psalm. On the contrary the two factors of His preliminary coming with power are distinctly asserted.
Another passage which connects a coming of Christ and the triumph of His Kingdom is Is. lix. 16 to lxiii. 12 inclusive. Herein are the same two factors of His historic or preliminary comings with power: --
1. A great peril--the enemy coming in like a flood. (lix. 19.)
2. The Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against him -- "shall put him to flight."(Jamieson.)
3. "A redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob."
4. This is God's covenant with them -- Zion and Jacob. (lix. 21.)
5. Thus the Lord as the sun of righteousness "shall arise upon Zion, and His glory shall be seen upon her." (Ix. 2.)
6. Thus and then "the nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (ix. 3.)
Premillennialists see in this the second advent of Christ in the body to restore the Jews and destroy the Gentiles, -- the living nations, -- and after this the millennial glory. The prophet says: "The enemy shall come in like a flood," but it is "the Spirit of the Lord" (this is the reading of the A. V. and the margin of the R. V.)-- not the man Christ Jesus --which shall put him to flight.
"A redeemer shall come to Zion, and to them that turn from transgression in Jacob." Whence? from heaven? Not a word of it. Of this very case Paul said: --
There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer:
He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
And this is my covenant unto them." (Rom. xi. 26, 27.)
This covenant is reported by Is. lix. 21, by Jer. xxxi. 31, 34, and in the Writer to the Hebrews (viii. 1-13; x. 15-17). If now the premillennialists have found a single word in either of those inspired reports, as to the Redeemer's coming from heaven in body to Zion or out of Zion--to turn away ungodliness front Jacob--they have failed to announce it, and for the best of reasons, as not a word nor intimation of such thing is found in the passage. Moreover, those eminent Corporealists, Drs. Jamieson and Fausset, in their comment upon this covenant (Jer. xxxi. 32) say: -The promise to Israel in the last days is effected by an extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit." Good enough! "Out of thine own mouth," etc.
Compare the terms and symbols expressive of the coming here named, with those before mentioned.
1. Two classes--God's people and their adver saries as in Egypt and in Babylon.
2. The adversaries, powerful and invasive--a peril to Zion.
3. An extraordinary intervention of God by the Spirit and fiery judgments on Egypt and Babylon.
4. The Redeemer came to Zion, and out of Zion to them that turn from their transgressions in Jacob, a fact and form of expression never used of Christ's bodily advent, and which limits this coming to Zion and to repentant sinners in Jacob. Israel's deliverance from Egypt as also from Babylon, is frequently spoken of as "redemption" and God the Holy One of Israel as their Redeemer. (Ex. i. 6; 2 Sam. vii. 23; 1 Chron. xvii. 21; Jer. xv. 21; Is. xliv. 23; xlviii. 20; Zech. x. 8.)
5. This coming of the Redeemer and redemption will be according to God's covenant.
"As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord;
My spirit that is upon thee,
And my words which I have put in thy mouth,
Shall not depart out of thy mouth,
Nor out of the mouth of thy seed,
Nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord,
From henceforth and forever." (Is. lix. 21.)
As illustrative of this passage and covenant, Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, refer to Christ's command and promise in Matt. xxviii. 19, 20: "Go . . and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." The Writer to the Hebrews at viii. 10 and x. 16 quotes from Jer. xxxi. 33,. 34,. as fulfilled in his day:--
"But this is the covenant
That I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord;
I will put my law in their inward parts,
And in their heart will I write it;
And I will be their God,
And they shall be my people: ...
And their sin will I remember no more."
God's method of accomplishing the millennial glory, even "righteousness and praise . . . before all the nations," is distinctly declared in this same vision (Is. lxi. 11), of which more in another place. Again (Zech. xiv 9), is claimed in proof of the millennial coming of Christ in body. The points of the argument are these :--
1. The passage speaks of a time when the Lord shall be "king over all the earth."
2. Before this (v. 2) all nations "gather against Jerusalem to battle," when "the Lord my God shall come, and all the holy ones." (v. 5.)
3. His feet shall tread upon the Mount of Olives, and the mountain shall divide and its halves remove.
1. This passage is in one of the most symbolical books: horns, carpenters, trees, filling lamps, chariots, mountains of brass, a flying roll, a woman with wings, Judah a bow, Ephraim an arrow, and the Lord the archer, sending His arrows like lightning, blowing His trumpet, encamping about His house, seen coming and going with whirlwinds, returning, visiting, dwelling, defending with sling, storms, hissing, sowing, Lebanon opens its doors to fire, the fir-trees and the oaks howl, Jerusalem is a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone to all people, and the governors of Judah are a torch of fire in a sheaf.
A proof-text from such a book must present unmistakable evidence of its meaning. But such evidence is not at hand, since adventists themselves are not agreed as to its application or meaning. In utter chaos are they when they attempt to work their scheme through the opening verses of the chapter from which this proof-text is taken. For instance, a somewhat noted adventist, D. T. Taylor, in the "World's Crisis," applies the three chapters of Zech. (13-15) to Christ's first advent, and says: "It is surprising that millenarians wrest them by applying them to the second advent."
In order to understand a prophet we must clearly know his time as well as his terms. Haggai and Zechariah were post-exilic prophets, and among the chief builders of the new nation gathered from Babylon after the seventy years' captivity. By Jeremiah God had said that He would visit and restore them after seventy years. Those years had passed, and the first colony under Zerubbabel were rebuilding Jerusalem.
In Zech. i. God says: "Return unto me, and I will return unto you." In ii. 7-13 is God's call to those who still remained in Babylon:--
"Ho, Zion, escape,
Thou that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon!...
Sing and rejoice, 0 daughter of Zion; For, lo, I come,
And will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord ....
Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord:
For He is waked up out of his Holy habitation."
More distinctly is this last fact set forth in i. 16:--
"I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies;
My house shall be built in it."
Also in viii. 3:--
"I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem."
Beyond question is the matter put in x. 3, by the past tense: --
"The Lord of Hosts hath visited His flock of Judah."
Beyond all possible cavil should the matter be put by the word of God through Hag. ii. 4, 5: --
..."Be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord;
And be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high
And be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work;
For I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts,
According to the word that I covenanted with you
When ye came out of Egypt,
And my spirit abode among you:
Fear ye not!"
At Sinai He said: "My presence shall go with thee," and here, a thousand years later, He says to their descendants: "I am with you." "My Spirit abideth (R.V. marg.) among you." God promised to come and dwell with the 0ld Testa ment saints, and He did so. Hence we read in Ps. xcix. 1:--
"The Lord reigneth; let the peopIes tremble:
He sitteth upon the cherubim; let the earth be moved."
Said to have been written with reference to Sennacherib's invasion, Ps. lxxx. 1, 2 reads: --
"Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, . . .
Thou that sittest upon the cheribim, shine forth
...stir up thy might,
And come to save us."
In behalf of this imperiled kingdom Hezekiah prayed; "0 Lord ... that sittest upon the cherubim,... incline thine ear and hear; open thine eyes and see.... save us from his hand."
The extreme literalist argues that Zech. xiv. 4, "His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives," certainly proves Christ's bodily presence as a man. Why not be consistent and say that this prayer proves that God in the body of a man dwelt between the cherubim, because He is represented as having eyes and ears.
Was it in a human form, a man's body, that God covenanted to dwell with those who came out of Egypt? He who asserts it has it to prove.
But compare the terms of this proof-text with Scripture terms and facts. Zech. xiv. 5: "The Lord my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee." In Ps. 1. 3-5, written a year before the promised coming of the Lord to destroy Babylon and redeem his people; in Is. xiii. 5, Jer. xxix. 10, and Zeph. ii. 7, it is said: --
"Our God shall come ...
He shall call to the heavens above,
And to the earth, that he may judge His people;
Gather my saints together unto Me;
Those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."
Twenty years later God said by his prophet Zechariah (viii. 3-8):--
"I am returned to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem:
Behold I will save my people from the east country;
And from the west country;
And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem."
There is no mistaking this language. God had come, had returned, and was bringing His saints with Him, and those saints were those who had made covenant with Him by sacrifice.
Another example is recorded by Moses (Deut. xxxiii. 1-3): --
"The Lord came from Sinai, ...
He came from the ten thousands of His holy ones: ...
All His saints are in thy hand.
And they sat down at thy feet;
Every one shall receive of thy words."
It is said that (Zech. xiv. 4), "His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, and ... the mount shall cleave in the midst thereof," proves a bodily advent. But it is said by Micah (i. 3, 4) :--
"Behold, the Lord cometh forth out of His place,
And will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
And the mountains shall be molten under Him,
And the valleys shall be cleft,
As wax before the fire, ...
For the transgression of Jacob is all this ....
What is the transgression of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria? ...
Therefore I will make Samaria as a heap of the field."
So in Ps. cxiv. 1-9:--
"When Israel went forth out of Egypt, ...
The mountains skipped like rams,
The little hills like young sheep ....
Tremble thou earth, at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the God of Jacob."
That twice-used word "presence" means literally "face."
Agreeing therewith are the words of God to Moses at Sinai (Ex. iii. 7, 8): "I have seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, ... and am come down to deliver them."
How now did God come down and tread upon the high places of the earth when Samaria was destroyed? Not in body, as a man, but by His appointed agents, the Assyrian army. That which they did by His appointment, He did.
One other verse of this proof-text (Zech. xiv. 3) requires notice :--
"Then shall the Lord go forth,
And fight against those nations,
As when he fought in the day of battle."
As God is said to come and go, it is fair to presume there being no evidence to the contrary, that the mode of His coming and going is the same. This verse declares that He shall go forth and fight those nations "as when He fought in the day of battle." Here is a plain reference to historical examples, and the unequivocal declaration that this will be "as" that. Until the premillennialist points to the historical case in which Christ in body--as a man--went forth and fought His enemies, this passage may be shelved as wholly irrelevant to this argument.
But more than that. This passage in Zechariah is one of the strongest proofs that Christ's millennial coming is, like that, "with power," not bodily. In the Red Sea the Egyptians fled, confessing that "The Lord fighteth against them." (Ex. xiv. 25.) Moses, in Deut. xx. 4, repeated the same: "The Lord your God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." And so says Joshua (xxiii. 10): "The Lord your God, He it is that fighteth for you, as He spake unto you," saying, "Cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day." (v. 8.)
Against David's foes the Lord went forth and fought, but by David's own hand (2 Sam. v. 24). By great hailstones he fought Israel's foe (Jos. x. 11); by a raging pestilence against Jerusalem (Jer. xx. 5, 6); by the Medes against Babylon (Is. xiii. 5-17).
Now as Zechariah says that at the time of which he speaks, "The Lord shall go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle," it unmistakably follows that, if this passage refers to the Millennium, Christ's millennial coming will be like those; that is, not in body, but with spiritual power, in extraordinary mercies and judgments. On the other hand, if it does not refer to the Millennium, it has nothing to do with the question before us.
A reign of "a thousand years" is mentioned in Rev. xx. 1-7, the Latin equivalent of which is "millennium," and the Greek, "chiliasm." In the preceding chapter (v. 11) John says: "I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He that sat thereon, called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He doth judge and make war... Out of His mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations. (v. 15) .... I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven: Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God" (v. 17).
It is claimed and conceded that Rev. xix. 11-21, relates to Christ's conquest of His foes before the millennium. It is claimed, but denied, that the appearance of Christ spoken of in the passage is His second bodily advent.
This then is the question. Does this passage speak of Christ's second bodily coming? If Zech. xiv. is a millennial passage, it is a subjective parallel of Rev. xix. and xx. so far as the appearing of Christ and the millennium are concerned.
In both Christ goes forth to battle, and destroys or subdues His enemies, after which He reigns. But if they are parallels, referring to the same time and event, the mode of Christ's going forth to battle in the one is that of the other. But, as before shown, the mode of His going forth in past history was judicial, not bodily. As was the mode to Zechariah, so must it be to John,--if they are parallels.
In both He appears as a man of war; goes forth to battle; and triumphs. In both the result of His triumph is His actual reign in all the earth.
Now His appearing in Zech. xiv. 3, is as when He went out "to smite the host of the Philistines" (1 Chron. xiv. 14, 15); the Egyptians (Ex. xiv. 14-2 5); the Canaanites (Jos. xxiii. 3-10); the Assyr ians (2 Kings xix. 35); and the Babylonians (Is. xiii. 5).
But His second descent from heaven will be as He went up into heaven: "This Jesus,
... shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him going into heaven" (Acts i. 11). But the appearing in Rev. xix. is nothing like His ascension, nor can its symbols be interpreted literally, without the most monstrous absurdities. The material man Jesus, sitting on a material horse, with a material sword coming out of His mouth with which He slays His enemies, is grotesque absurdity itself.
In order to escape this the Corporealists mix things, and assume a material Christ sitting on a symbolic horse with a symbolic sword. The logical result of that can only be a "symbolic" destruction of His enemies, which cannot hurt them much.
How much better by far to allow the prophets to explain each other, and to interpret this passage from the most symbolic book of the Bible as other passages are explained, and according to its evident meaning, as setting forth in symbols, after the manner of all the prophets, the judicial appearance of Christ; as when in all ages of the church He has gone forth to terrible things for the redemption of His people by His Spirit and by judgments upon His foes.
Abounds the Old Testament with symbolic passages similar to this. For example, Hab. iii. 1- 15 :--
"God came from Teman, ...
His glory covered the heavens,
And the earth was full of His praise ....
He stood, and measured the earth;
He beheld, and drove asunder the nations:
And the eternal mountains were scattered,
The everlasting hills did bow ....
.....Thou didst ride upon Thy horses,
Upon Thy chariots of salvation ....
Thou didst march through the land in indignation,
Thou didst thresh the nations in anger.
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people ....
Thou didst tread the sea with Thine horses,
The heap of mighty waters."
This is history presented in the highly emotional dress of poetry. More than two-fifths of the 0ld testament is poetry, and is to be judged by nothing but poetical canons. This passage is but the poetical review and expansion of Moses' description of God's march from Sinai (Deal. xxxiii. 1-3) :--
"The Lord came from Sinai,
And rose from Seir unto them;
He shined forth from Paran,
And He came from the ten thousands of holy ones:
At His right hand was a fiery law unto them.
Yea, He loveth the peoples:
All His saints are in Thy hand.
And they sat down at Thy feet;
Every one shall receive of Thy words."
"Receiving His words," is the cold prose for "sitting at His feet" as pupils, its poetical form. No sane man would interpret these descriptions as teaching a bodily coming, marching, walking, riding upon horses, and a physical scattering of the mountains. Why then do men interpret these very same symbols in the most symbolic of the biblical books as denoting the bodily coming of Christ? Why is this done, in direct contradiction of prophets and angels?
The prophet Zechariah (xiv. 3), said: --
"Then shall the Lord go forth,
And fight against those nations,
As when He fought in the day of battle."
We have seen how that was,--that it was not by bodily presence and going, but judicial. And as millennial is the passage claimed by the Cor porealists.
Again, the angels in Acts i. 11, not only announce the fact of Christ's second advent, but also the manner of it: "This Jesus ... shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven." Is that the manner of His appearing in Rev. xix. 11? Did they see Him riding up into heaven on a horse? followed by an army upon horses? If not, then the appearing in Rev. xix. 11 is not the second coming of Christ promised by the angels in Acts i. 11.
So much for history and its light upon Christ's millennial coming. We have examined the texts which speak both of the coming of the Lord Christ and the millennium, and have found not one that teaches a premillennial bodily coming. Rather have we found decidedly the opposite, viz.: that His millennial coming, like others in sacred history, is a judicial one, in extraordinary mercies and judgments.
This is the direct, positive testimony of the Scriptures. What men may infer from presuppositions and assumptions from wrested texts, dove-tailed to suit a theory, is of little consequence, in the presence of inspired testimony as to the manner of the Millennial Coming, when in doing terrible things in righteousness He comes down, and the mountains of difficulties and peril shall melt at His glorious though invisible presence.
EVEN SO, COME LORD JESUS
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